Every week, some 3,000 dogs and nearly 100 cats from the national charity Pets as Therapy are busy visiting people in a range of health and educational settings. The animals' ability to reach out and touch people is truly amazing - and they are making their mark in helping with stroke rehabilitation too.
Pets work with stroke patients
What is not so well known about PAT work is that many health professionals ask PAT volunteers to become in stroke rehabiltation work. Common problems resulting from a stroke may include
physical (such as weakness, paralysis, pain, sensation problems, problems with the bladder and bowels and balance difficulties)
emotional - mood swings, depression, sadness, anger, loss of self-esteem
difficulties communicating with others
problems with concentration, memory and learning
interpretation and perception, that is recognising and using familiar objects
Sometimes, the cats and dogs involved in PAT work with those recovering from a stroke simply provide comfort and contact, but they also may be included in structural sessions designed to help with rehabilitation along a goal setting process laid out by the therapist.
Occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and/or physiotherapists may all be involved in the process.
During sessions with a client, the therapist involved in the patient's stroke rehabilitation will probably set a goal such as improving movements, through reaching out to stroke the dog, or throwing an object for him to retrieve, or fine motor movements (clipping and unclipping leads and collars).PAT volunteers may also be involved in an informal walkabout, or more structured sessions with a group or person.
All stroke rehabilitation work undertaken by PAT volunteers is done so under the guidance and direct supervision of a health care professional.
Pets go visiting
Pets as Therapy has grown considerably since it started 25 years ago.In fact, the charity has done such amazing work that it has been awarded the BKR Haines Watts Award for “innovation in the non-clinical areas of the NHS Trusts.” A list of the places pets may visit are listed to the right.
Dogs and cats are assessed, to ensure that their temperament is quite right for the job in hand.Then they – with their owners – may visit once a week, for between one and two hours, although some do more.
How you can help
Become a registered volunteer and pay the annual subscription charge (£19).All dogs and cats take on in the scheme must be assessed first.
Become a supporter
If you’re under 18, join the Pets as Therapy Junior Club (see the Juniors page on their web site)
If you’re an establishment, become a supporter and receive visits from PAT dogs and cats
Send a donation
Sponsor a volunteer
Recruit supporters and volunteers
Help with fund-raising events
Donating stationery e.g. paper, ink cartridges etc